Missionary Arrival (and Influence)

Prior to English born Angelican cleric Samuel Marsden’s arrival in Rangihoua, Aotearoa, he sent Te Pahi, who was the leader of chief of the Bay of Islands, back to his tribe, the Bay of Islands, in 1806. Marsden noted that Chief Te Pahi had a “clear, strong and comprehensive mind” and was the perfect Māori to help him establish a mission throughout Aotearoa. This is why Marsden selected Te Pahi to establish a base for his mission in Rangihoua. However, those plans were put on hold when another chief, Te Puhi, who oversaw the Whangaroa Northland was accused of burning a ship called the Boyd, which led to the death of the whalers who occupied the ship in 1809. Those close with the people who died on the Boyd confused Te Puhi with Te Pahi, which resulted with the death of Te Pahi and members of the Rangihoua tribe. Marsden’s hope to establish a mission was delayed for another five years.

Marsden, who was affiliated with the Church Missionary Society, arrived to Rangihoua, Aotearoa in December 1814. Marsden’s mission was based out of the same region as Te Pahi and was able to establish himself and the Church Missionary Society by December 25, 1814 in order to hold the first Christian service on Christmas Day the same year. This was accomplished through the help of Ruatara, who took Te Pahi’s role and assisted Marsden with establishing a religion in Aotearoa. Unfortunately, Ruatara passed away the following year. At this point Marsden depended on the expansion and protection of his mission on Hongi Hika. Hika was notorious for leading the Ngāpuhi tribe in the early 1820s with over 300 firearms during the Musket Wars. Hika hoped that an established religion would ultimately increase his power and prestige.

By the 1830s the Musket Wars started to slow down as a result of economic crushes and a majority of the tribe obtaining firearms. The economy suffered – especially between 1814 and 1820 (a timeframe that only spans for six years) – as the price of one musket for any tribe increased from 150 baskets of potatoes to 200 baskets. In terms of pigs, the cost of a single musket increased from eight to 15. Christian missionaries used this fragile moment to help garner followers to help lead Aotearoa back on a right track.

The influence left behind by Marsden was an extensive trading network with the Māori people. As a result ships were brought in to trade with New South Wales and elsewhere. This trading network established by Marsden helped to fund the mission and helped the Māori people to develop their trading operation in the post-Musket War era.